The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to approve its final report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, ending the panel's probe and giving a final endorsement to their conclusion that there was no coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.
The Republican-written report will be released to the public after it goes to the intelligence community for a classification review. The document has been fiercely opposed by Democrats, who say that the investigation was shut down too quickly and that the committee has not interviewed enough witnesses or gathered enough evidence to make such an assessment. All the Democrats on the intelligence panel voted against approving the report.
Committee Republicans released a summary of 44 findings that concludes that there were Russian cyberattacks on U.S. political institutions and that Russians leveraged social media in the U.S. to sow discord. The report also echoes GOP criticism of the Justice Department and intelligence community as it investigated the meddling. The panel will release the context of those findings once intelligence agencies have reviewed it and decided what should be blacked out.
In terms of collusion with Trump's Republican campaign, the summary says that "none of the interviewed witnesses provided evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government."
The findings said that the committee found no evidence that Trump's "pre-campaign business dealings" formed any basis for collusion with Russia during the campaign or that meetings between the Russian ambassador and Trump associates represented coordination in any way.
Republicans on the committee also said there's no evidence that Trump associates had anything to do with hacked emails that were stolen from Democrats during the campaign, though they do note "numerous ill-advised contacts with WikiLeaks." Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., messaged with the group during the campaign.
Committee chairman Devin Nunes said in a statement that the report can help "to improve our election security before the mid-term elections" and "will be useful in thwarting any attempts by Russia or other foreign powers to further meddle in U.S. elections."
Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi condemned the conclusion of the investigation, saying in a statement that committee Republicans "cast a vote against America’s national security interests."
"The American people deserve American leadership, not a President willing to hand over our democracy to Putin," she said. "Democrats will continue to demand the Special Counsel investigation be allowed to continue to follow the facts, unhindered by the White House or Republicans in Congress, and will take real, immediate action to secure our elections from foreign interference."
In an intelligence assessment released in January 2017, the National Security Agency, CIA and FBI concluded that Russian military intelligence provided hacked information from the Democratic National Committee and "senior Democratic officials" to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has denied that Russia was the source of emails it released, including those from Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, the Republican leading the House investigation, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the panel wanted to get the report out as the 2018 campaign season begins. He said that it would be difficult for Russians to have an impact on a specific congressional race but that they could "practice" this time around for bigger disruption during the 2020 presidential election.
On collusion and coordination, Conaway said, "We could not find a thread to follow that made sense."
The report recommends that the intelligence community immediately inform candidates if they find a counterintelligence threat and proposes that campaigns better ensure that "their counterintelligence defenses appropriately account for the role of cut-outs and intermediaries." It also says Congress should amend campaign finance laws to increase transparency with foreign entities.
After the committee vote, the panel's top Democrat, California Rep. Adam Schiff, said he had hoped Thursday's meeting could have been public.
"It is a rather sad chapter in our committee's long history with the ending of the majority's participation in the investigation, that ending taking place in secret session for no reason at all except a desire to avoid public scrutiny of this decision, to curtail an investigation into one of the most serious intrusions into our democracy and our history," Schiff said.
Democrats will have their own report and say they will continue to investigate the meddling. They have already set up at least one interview: Chris Wylie, a former employee of a political data-mining firm that obtained information from Facebook users without their consent. The firm, Cambridge Analytica, worked for the Trump campaign.
Wylie told news outlets that the company used the data to build psychological profiles so voters could be targeted with ads and stories.
It is unclear if Republicans on the committee will attend that interview.